As your affiliate marketing business grows, how will you hire your first team member and stay one step ahead of the competition?
You could put in more hours by yourself, but this really isn’t the answer to all your problems.
You guys should know I hate the concept of being a one man army. You only have 24 hours in a day, and one person can’t compete against an optimized team.
You’re only one person, and you you can only do so much. Don’t burn yourself out when there’s a better option.
I know hiring can be uncomfortable, and it’s going to take some time to get good at. Just remember it’s a skill, and skills can only be improved through repetition.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes. I’ve learned that one good hire can outweigh 3 bad ones.
Whenever people ask me about hiring, they’re always asking low level questions.
- What websites do I use?
- Should you hire local or remote?
- Should you hire your friends?
Those questions aren’t as important as learning how to build a solid hiring process. Once you build the system, then you can hire people who have knowledge of the industry, a willingness to learn and, of course, that hustling mentality that’ll take you to the top of your game.
What’s the Process for Hiring Your First Team Member?
It’s one thing to say you wanna hire your first team member. It’s another thing entirely to take the right steps at the right time.
When you have bad hires, I know it’s tempting to blame the person. He’s lazy, or he’s just not what you expected.
But keep this in mind, you’re the one that hired him. Think about your process. Employees will come and go, but your process is an asset that stays with you forever.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to avoid a bottleneck that’ll slow your progress.
Here are the five most important steps for finding and hiring that ever-important first employee (or contractor).
1. Work Your Network
By now, YOU know the affiliate industry like the back of your hand. This means you’ve probably made quite a few connections over the years.
From designers to writers, from marketing pros to coding savants, your network is a thing of beauty.
Why not start your search by reaching out to those you’ve worked with in the past?
For example, if you’re seeking help primarily with design and implementation, turn your attention to designers who’ve provided high level results in the past.
If you don’t want to work your personal network, here are some other ideas:
- Reach out to those you respect. Talk to your masterminds, affiliate managers, and anybody else who may have connections with quality candidates.
- Post an ad. This will generate a lot of interest. It’ll also generate interest from a lot of people who aren’t qualified. Cut the tire-kickers by tailoring your search. If you need a copywriter, for instance, turn your focus to ProBlogger and other targeted job boards. Tip: I only ever do private job listings (on Upwork), then I look for candidates who seem qualified. When you have a public job too many people will apply and it’s a pain trying to find the gems.
- Scour forums. I know what you’re thinking. Most people on forums are newbies with no real knowledge. This may be true to a certain extent, but there may also be a few “diamonds in the rough.” STM has a specific section where people pimp themselves out as copywriters, coders and designers. Some of these guys may be new to AM, but they all bring other skills to the table that could be helpful.
- Offer a bounty. Tap into your network and offer a financial reward for a successful referral.
2. Start with a Brief Interview
I can’t be clear enough when I say this: you NEED to interview a minimum of three candidates. Think of it like a funnel. The more “leads” you get, the better.
I know you’re in a hurry. I know you want to bring the right person on board ASAP. But that doesn’t mean you should rush to the point of making a potentially disastrous mistake.
It’s far better to wait for the right person, than to hire a mediocre person out of desperation.
Once you narrow down to a few candidates, then do an interview.
I like to get them on Skype to see if they can communicate with me well. If they can’t talk on Skype, then it’s an instant no deal. I want to be able to convey complex ideas (and I’m not a tech guy), so good communication is essential. You gotta ask the right questions for the position.
Lets say you wanna bring in a media buyer, and this person has some experience. Here are some sample questions:
- What’s your overall knowledge of affiliate marketing?
- How much experience do you have in the field?
- What resources do you rely on to stay current with the industry?
- Can you tell me about a time when you ran a successful campaign? One that fell flat?
- What do you consider to be most important when choosing an affiliate offer?
- What skills do you have that lend well to being a success in this position?
- If hired, how would you make an immediate impact on the company?
These questions are simple, to the point, and when answered appropriately, very telling.
Once you ask these questions, rate the candidate and move onto the next one. Make your cuts and move forward with the next step in the interview process.
Think of it like any other test – sift through the dirt faster to find the gold faster.
One more major key: don’t forget to interview if they’re a good culture fit. The easiest way is to see how well the person matches up with your companies core values. Imagine if someone is interviewing for Disney, but they hate kids. Or if someone is interview for a Vegan company, and they love meat. They may be able to do the job, but they may not fit into the culture of the company.
For instance, one of our core values is “excellence in all areas of life.” I wanna see if this person reads and works out. What do you do to stay fit? What are the best 3 books you’ve read this year?
3. Run a Test Project
Okay, so you’ve narrowed your list and you want to push forward. Now, it’s time for the real fun to begin.
Ask each candidate to complete a small test project. You don’t have to pay for this, but I’ve found that offering compensation brings out the person’s best work.
The type of test you run should be based on the type of help you’re hoping your new team member will provide.
For example, maybe you need somebody to help you find, compare, and eventually settle on the best affiliate offers.
In this case, point the candidate in the right direction by telling them the basics of what you’re looking for. You could say something like this:
“Find me five of the best weight loss affiliate products, at least three of which will have been released in the last couple months.”
This may not be enough to make a final decision, but it’ll give you a clear view of how each person approaches the process. It’ll also show you who thinks like you, which is a BIG deal as an affiliate marketer. There’s nothing wrong with a person who presents fresh ideas, but you want team members who share the same basic vision as you.
Maybe you have an SOP / screencast on how to translate landing pages. Give this quick test to the candidates and see how they perform.
Your employees should “imitate then innovate”, AFTER they have mastered your style.
Pro tip: It may take more than one test project to truly see if somebody has what it takes to join your team. Again, if you pay for this, you’ll find more people who are willing to move forward. Employees want to be sure you’ve got money to pay them, so show them this by paying on time every time.
4. Agree on Responsibilities
You’ve done all the legwork and have a good idea of who to hire as your first team member. This isn’t easy to do, but you made it happen.
Now, it’s time to make sure you’re on the same page. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before. You think you’re hiring somebody for one task, only to find out that they’re interested in something completely different.
Take this piece of advice to heart: be 100% honest with the candidate upfront to avoid trouble down the road.
This means telling candidates exactly what you expect. It means listening to their feedback and implementing it accordingly.
There are two things that are more important than everything else:
- That you hire a person who gives you exactly what you need,
- And that your new team member knows your expectations and is ready to deliver from day one.
If you mince words, this gray area could come back to haunt you. Screw that. Do both people a favor and agree on terms from the start.
Also before you hire the person, ask if they have any references. Their old bosses or co-workers can tell you a lot about them.
5. Discuss the Next Steps
You’re both happy with the terms of the position, and you’re ready to move forward. This is a tricky spot, because now it’s time to take things to the next level. Now it’s time to actually start your working relationship.
Discuss the next step(s) in great detail. I suggest something like this:
- An exact start date
- A list of responsibilities for week one, broken out by the day
- A list of goals for week one
- A system for tracking progress and delivering completed work
Here’s another great trick: ask them to send you an email at the end of each day.
1. What did you accomplish today?
2. What bottlenecks did you have?
3. What questions do you have for me?
First of all, if this person can’t even send you an email a day, how can you trust them with bigger projects? Next, you can see what kind of pace this person works at.
Once I’m happy that employees are getting a good amount of work done I give them more freedom.
Don’t forget to share your contact information. I don’t like giving out personal contact details to new contractors. I give them an email address or keep conversations on the hiring platform. Once they become more ingrained in my system and we require more communication, I give them more details.
Also if you don’t have any good team management software, look into it. Trello, Wrike, Slack are just a few great pieces of software to keep your team on task.
If you’re working with somebody in another part of the world, communication is key. When you hire your first team member make it easy for them to contact you, and make sure you know how to contact them.
One more major key: Establish a probation period. Have them work for you as a contractor for 21 days. You’ll see how well they can fit in after 3 weeks.
If they pass your test, then they can become a full-time contractor. Trust me, 3 weeks will tell you a lot about a potential employee. For a full-time employee, it’s different (because of contracts, legality etc.). I put employees on a longer probation period than a a contractor.
Top Mistakes to Avoid
I’ve seen it all in this industry. I’ve hired people who have over delivered. I’ve also hired guys who complete one project then disappear forever. I’ve hired people who I wish I could turn back time and forget I ever met them.
To improve your chance of finding and hiring the right team member, avoid these mistakes:
- Hiring somebody because they’re your friend. I have plenty of friends inside and outside of the industry. I’ve worked with some, but you have to use judgement and proceed carefully. Hiring friends can be great, but you should hold them to the same standards as a stranger. You also have to make sure they respect your authority.
- Hiring the first person you find. Yes, the first person may be the best candidate. But how will you know that’s the case until you interview several others? You won’t.
- Going into the process without clear guidelines. When I hire a team member, I know exactly what I want from the relationship. Know what you want and then find the person who can deliver.
- Neglecting to do your background work. Anyone can say they’re an affiliate marketing legend (and everyone does). There are a lot of guys in this industry who will look you right in the eye and bullshit you. When you’re making good money, everyone wants to work with you. Don’t hire anybody until you check them out.
- Forgetting to Check their referrals and how they’ve performed in past jobs. The past is the greatest predictor of the future.
- Limiting your search to experienced affiliate marketers. Get this: I love hiring people who don’t know much about affiliate marketing. If they have some skills and the right attitude, I can teach them the rest. Don’t fall into the trap of searching for somebody who’s a perfect fit. This doesn’t exist, and you’ll lose valuable time trying to find it. If someone is hard working and smart, they’ll pick it up quickly, and they don’t have bad habits/traits from previous campaigns.
- Do they get along with the rest of your employees (aka culture fit)? One trick I’ve used is to involve current team members in the interview process. Why? Because they’re going to be working alongside them as well. This is just as true for remote teams – if someone is a pain in the ass in person, they will be just the same (probably worse) online and vice versa.
- Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and hire somebody you’ve never met before.
We started from the bottom now we’re here, and now it’s time to turn things up a notch. With the right person on your team, you will be able to devote more time and resources to what you do best.
Stop dreaming of the day your affiliate business takes off. Be the boss you’re meant to be by building the team that’ll get you there.
Have another tip for hiring your first team member? Any mistakes you’ll fess up to that others can learn from? I wanna hear your employer / employee war stories!
Featured Image by EdZbarzhyvetsky